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Wildlife Gardening
January 28, 2019

(A Cardinal Fest.)

Winter is more than making up for its late start.

Plenty of snow, and some of the coldest temperatures we have had around here in decades.

At least that is what the meteorologists are telling us.

Yolanda is really struggling with this crud that is going around.

It started around Christmas for her.

Off and on.

Stay home a couple days, back to Hope for a few.

This past week, We took her to Emergency because of a hacking attack.

Dr said there was some fluid in her lungs, no fever, and X-rays showed no signs of Pneumonia, or Bronchitis.

Better safe than sorry.

She was home all of last week, we will play this week day by day.

I get so angry at some people, when I see cats roaming around and dogs chained up for long periods when temperatures are in single digits and wind chills are well below zero.

Pets don't deserve such treatment.

February is just around the corner, we now winter is on the down swing.

Instant winter.

Instant birds.

It happens all the time.

Cardinals are so photogenic in the snow.

This week I touch a bit on 'Woodpeckers' in general.


(Female Downy woodpecker.)

There are more than 180 species of woodpeckers worldwide, and they are adapted to a wide range of habitats, including forests, deserts, jungles, and even urban settings.

About two dozen woodpecker species found in the The United States and Canada.

This includes Flickers and Sap suckers.

Visiting my yard are the Downy, Hairy, Red-Belly, and Northern Flicker.

I have seen Yellow-Belly Sapsucker in the woods and just this past year I spotted a Pileated on three occasions.

Red-headed woodpeckers are native too.

Sadly, declining populations means no visitors for me (they are a beautiful bird).

Different species of woodpeckers and many different habitats.

Still they all have many things in common.

For example:

Every time a woodpecker hammers on wood, the bill is sharpened.

Woodpeckers are able to peck up to 20 times per second.

It can produce between 10,000 and 12,000 pecks per day.

(Male Downy.)

And no headaches.

This must place extraordinary stresses upon the neck, skeleton, and face of these birds.

Scientists want to know how woodpeckers avoid brain damage.

It’s more than just a strong skull and shock absorbers.

Strong, dense muscles in the bird’s neck give it strength to repeatedly thump its head.

But it is extra muscles in the skull that keep the bird from getting hurt.

These muscles act like a protective helmet for the brain.

Unlike the human brain that often suffers injury from sudden hits and severe blows, the woodpecker’s brain is tightly confined by muscles in the skull and a compressible bone.

This keeps the woodpecker brain from jiggling around when the bird is stabbing away at a tree trunk.

The Downy woodpecker is our smallest, social, and close to ubiquitous woodpecker.

During the winter months, Downy woodpeckers can be seen in small groups, often socializing with Chickadees, and Nuthatches.

Downy woodpeckers can even be hand trained.

Pileated Woodpeckers are our largest woodpecker.

The Ivory Bill Woodpecker is larger, does it still live, or is it extinct?

Pileated woodpeckers will aggressively defend a territory.

On the other end of the spectrum, Acorn woodpeckers often share a tree, or granary with several of the same species.

Strength in numbers.

Woodpeckers don't have a song as other birds do.

They do have calls and cries, and often communicate by drumming on trees and even your house.

All woodpeckers have an undulating flight pattern.

Several wing beats to propel forward and up.

Then pull the wings back to glide and down.

This continues throughout the flight.

A flight pattern similar to American Goldfinches.

Woodpeckers have hairy like feathers covering the nostrils to keep sawdust and wood particles out.

They also have a second (clear/see through), eyelid to keep flying debris our of the eyes.

(A beautiful Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker in my yard a couple summers ago.)

Most woodpeckers have 'zygodactyl' feet,

This means they have two toes facing the front and two toes facing the back to help them strongly grip trees and poles in a vertical position.

They use those toes with their stiff tail feathers to brace on trees as they climb.

Many woodpeckers also have longer, thicker talons than other birds, which helps them have an exceptional grip.

The exceptions for North American woodpeckers are the Three Toed and the Black Back woodpeckers.

These woodpeckers have three toes, Two facing up and one facing down.

Both species are found in the Boreal forests of Canada and parts of the mountains of the Western United States.

(Red-Belly and Flicker sharing the peanut feeder, doesn't happen too often.)

All woodpeckers nest in constructed tree cavities and sometimes the side of your house.

On occasion made made nest boxes will be used (especially by Downies).

The force and power of a woodpecker is up to 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour).

The force and damage done by A Pileated woodpecker not only brings other birds to forage and look for nest sights, the damage can be so sever it sometimes kills off the tree.

Sap suckers will make several pecking holes in a row, and even a block of holes.

This to can often damage smaller trees.

The sap not only attracts insects, but a favorite feeding ground for early migrating hummingbirds.

In return, the hummers will chase off other birds.

I suppose this could be a symbiotic relationship between Sapsuckers and Hummingbirds, as both benefit from each other.

(Male Hairy-woodpecker. While Hairy and Downy look much alike, the Hairy is a couple inches longer. Both species, only the male sports any red on the head.)

Woodpeckers feed on insects, sap, fruits, nuts, suet, and sometimes jelly and hummingbird feeders.

Northern Flickers are most often seen licking up ants on the ground, many times near sidewalks, driveways and parking lots.

They are not shy of visiting my peanut feeders, however.

A woodpecker tongue is up to 4 inches long depending on the species, and it wraps around the skull when it is retracted (like a hummingbird tongue).

Many woodpecker tongues are barbed to help the birds extract bugs from trees and holes.

Woodpeckers can lick up sap and insects, and will also use their agile tongues to get the sugar water from hummingbirds and oriole feeders.

(Red-headed woodpecker. I wish I knew who to give credit to.)

The Red-headed woodpecker is often considered the prettiest, or most attractive of all our woodpeckers.

Both male and female have the all red head.

The greatest threats to woodpeckers include habitat loss through urban development and population sprawl and insecticide use that eliminates food sources.

Natural and made made disasters such as forest fires that eliminate dead wood for feeding and nesting can also reduce suitable woodpecker habitat.

Nests are also destroyed.

In urban and suburban areas, cats are a constant threat to woodpeckers as well.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God bless.

“If a man hasn't discovered something that he would die for, he isn't fit to live. (Detroit, June 23, 1963).”

Martin Luther King, Jr.


I guess we find out who has a backbone or not.

From the Word of God.

"It is rare indeed for anyone
to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners,Christ died for us".

Romans 5: 7,8

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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